The problem of medication adherence is a serious one, affecting millions of people worldwide. The issue is especially prevalent among seniors, who often take multiple medications for various chronic conditions. This can lead to confusion and forgetting to take doses, which can in turn lead to serious health complications. Pill dispensers are one way to help solve the problem of medication adherence, by providing a convenient way for patients to keep track of their doses and schedule. Medication tracking apps like CareClinic can also be helpful, by providing reminders and other tools to help patients remember to take their medications. Medication adherence is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted approach.
Why is medication adherence such a large problem?
It is estimated that only half of the patients with chronic conditions take their medications as prescribed. This can lead to several problems, including worsening of chronic conditions increased hospitalizations and higher medical costs.
There are many reasons why patients don’t take their medications as prescribed. Some may not be able to afford their medications, while others may forget to take them or have difficulty understanding how to take them correctly. Different schedules for taking multiple medications are also a key factor in people not being able to adhere. Unclear instructions or too complex of instructions is the second main reason for people not adhering along with side effects or ‘perceived side effects’ being the 3rd most common reason.
Prevalence among seniors and other groups
Adherence is a particular problem among seniors. One study found that only 28% of seniors took their medications as prescribed. Other groups that have been shown to have lower adherence rates include people with low incomes, racial and ethnic minorities, and those who have poor health literacy.
Poor adherence can lead to serious consequences
When patients don’t take their medications as prescribed, it can lead to serious consequences. One of the most common problems is that chronic conditions can worsen. This can result in more doctor’s visits, more hospitalizations, and ultimately higher medical costs. It is estimated that poor adherence to medication costs the US healthcare system up to $289 billion each year. (Reference)
The consequences of forgetting to take medications as prescribed can be life-threatening. In a study of more than 1.5 million Medicare patients, it was reported that poor medication adherence (not taking medications as prescribed) leads to 125,000 deaths per year and 10% of hospitalizations. This is a very significant number and it is likely that the actual number is even higher. A personalized medication management platform is just one of the multi-faceted approach to addressing medication adherence. Other approaches to solving low medication adherence include:
- E-prescribing systems that can send reminders to patients
- Text message reminders
- Medication synchronization programs (where patients pick up all their refills on the same day each month)
- Patient education and support programs (PSP)
- Adherence packaging (such as blister packs)
Chronic conditions with the highest levels of medical non-adherence:
1. Diabetes – One reason why patients with diabetes might not take their medication as prescribed is because of the fear of needles. Some treatments for diabetes require injections of insulin, which can be daunting for some patients. In addition, the cost of some diabetes medications can be prohibitive for some patients.
2. High blood pressure – Patients with high blood pressure might not take their medication as prescribed because of the side effects. Some common side effects of blood pressure medications include fatigue, dizziness, and headache. These side effects can make it difficult for patients to stick to their medication regimen.
3. Asthma – Asthma is a chronic condition that can be difficult to manage. Some patients might not take their medication as prescribed because they don’t feel like they have asthma under control. In addition, some patients might be afraid of the side effects of asthma medications, such as weight gain and difficulty sleeping.
4. Depression – Depression is a serious condition that can be difficult to treat. Some patients might not take their antidepressant medication as prescribed because they don’t feel like the medication is working. In addition, some patients might be afraid of the side effects of antidepressants, such as weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and dry mouth.
5. Heart disease – Patients with heart disease might not take their medication as prescribed because they are afraid of the side effects. Some common side effects of heart disease medications include fatigue, dizziness, and headache. These side effects can make it difficult for patients to stick to their medication regimen.
It is not just chronic conditions that have high medical non-adherence it is also acute conditions. One study found that patients with acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) were less likely to take their discharge medications as prescribed. In this study, only 50% of patients took their discharge medications as prescribed. (Reference: Association of Depression and Survival in Patients with Chronic Heart Failure over 12 Years. Ahmed, Atwater, & Cuffe, 2016).
Let’s look at what a medication reminder app should have for you to improve your general health as we’ve determined which diseases a patient may use it for.
Top 10 ways to manage medications with medication tracker apps
There are a few key features that a medical tracker app would need to have in order to improve medication adherence.
First, the app would need to be able to track all of the medications that a patient is taking. This would include the dosage, frequency, and route of administration. CareClinic is a free app (freemium) that helps patients build a medication schedule in a Care Plan where all modalities including medications can be stored with visual indicators such as pill size, color, design and more.
Second, the app would need to remind the patient when it is time to take their medication. This could be done through push notifications or alarms. CareClinic provides users the ability to add multiple reminders, with tapering doses, and medication refill reminders, and takes into account the users time zone. Reminders can also be set for other modalities such as remembering to take a measurement, a symptom check, or doing a medical assessment.
The push notifications can also be sent to a users wearable device such as Apple Watch. Notifications can be taken even further with the ability to receive an email reminder and badging on the App icon (the red circle that you often see on the right). Many other helpful reminders can be set within the app for things such as upcoming medical appointments, immunization reminders, fluid intake and others.
Third, the app would need to provide instructions on how to take the medication. This would include the dosage, frequency, and route of administration. CareClinic allows you to dig deep into the built-in medication library to learn more about your medications and even bookmark those you would like to learn more about with your care provider. You may also save a note for each medication and use the Diary functionality at the time of checking in to store additional notes in free-form.
Medication Adherence Reports
Fourth, the app would need to track the patient’s progress. This could be done by tracking the number of doses taken, side effects experienced, and medications remaining. CareClinic has a built-in Logs, Charts, and Correlations screen which enables you to monitor your progress over time and discover resultant patterns or triggers you may not have been aware of. Aside from this, you can may also export your data and or combine it with wearable data pulled from Apple Health or Google Fit to discover even more correlations you may not have been aware of. It is the best way to remain accountable and build the habit of sticking to your medication regimen. Be sure to share any notes electronically or print your treatment logs at your upcoming medical appointments to potentially adjust your treatment accordingly.
Remote caregiving and care coordination
Fifth, the app would need to provide support for the patient. This could be done through the Care Team module. CareClinic has this built in-app where you can securely reach out to your care team including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists or family. Your care team will be able to see your progress remotely, without errors or any biases. They may even nudge you, follow-up with text messages, start a secure video chat, or check your appointment reminders in case you need logistical support or want to confirm you have set up any follow-ups.
Drug Interaction Warnings (Drug and Supplement Interactions)
As a bonus, CareClinic also has an interaction checker (please consult a medical professional to double-check all drug interactions, interactions listed here are just for reference purposes as CareClinic does not consider your entire health history. Always seek professional medical advice). This interaction checker works for drug-to-drug interactions along with drug-to-supplement and supplement-to-supplement interactions.
Supplement Effects List
There are also “Effects” which sometimes can be used to determine if taking two different supplements or medications can help improve, neutralize or reduce the effects of certain health goals (All backed by references to studies. Please consult a healthcare professional to confirm all effects as it pertains to your health as this is just for reference purposes and should not be solely relied upon).
Additional Tracking for Mood, Symptoms & Measurements
The CareClinic app comes with multiple trackers alongside the medication tracker module, some of the other trackers include Symptoms, Stool, Diary for journaling, Activity (for Fitness), Nutrition & Fluids Tracker, Sleep Tracker, Therapy Tracker (to maintain a therapy journal), Factors tracker (to record environmental factors and day to day activities quickly), a mood tracker and of course a Measurements tracker which can store body temperature from your thermometer.
The measurements tracker enables you to Record additional measurements such as blood glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, weight, temperature, pulse, SpO2. You can always select more from a built-in library or add your own, there is no limit! The app comes with a few other sliding-scale measurements set-up right out of the gate, which can be disabled if needed. This includes a pain tracker, energy tracker, productivity tracker, and memory/attention tracker and calorie in/out tracker. You may also set additional reminders to record these values throughout the day and set goals for each measurement so you can see how much you have progressed when looking at charts.
Customized Pill Reminders
In the CareClinic App, your medication reminder can be customized in many ways. Sometimes a user may need privacy, so “generic reminders” may be enabled from settings so the details of your upcoming medication are not listed in the notification.
You may also adjust what sound plays when a notification triggers. You can choose from many built-in sounds that instantly capture your attention! You may also enable persistent reminders, this is useful if you forget to mark a medication reminder as taken due to any reason and need to be reminded to take the med again. Think of it like the snooze feature without needing to hit Snooze. However, the snooze feature also exists within the App if you know when you will be taking your next dose.
There is also countless smart features, one of them being, if a medication is already marked as taken from the App, you may disable a push notification from showing up for it as it was already taken. You will always be shown when you took your last dose of a medication in case you are taking medications as needed (PRN) as well.
Lastly, you may just disable sound altogether and set your pill reminder notifications to vibrate only. All of this is provided in a user-friendly app that allows you to manage your overall health easily.
Built-in Pharmacy Services
CareClinic is working with online pharmacy services to provide secure medication refills to patients that connect the App with their pharmacy. If your pharmacy is not working with CareClinic currently, you can either request your pharmacy support CareClinic or continue to use the App without automatic electronic prescription refills. Currently, this service is offered to people in the US and Canada.
Safe, Secure and Privacy-focused
A medication adherence app needs to be safe, secure and privacy-focused because the app will be handling sensitive health information. The app should be designed with security and privacy in mind from the start, with features like end-to-end encryption to protect user data. CareClinic encrypts all data in transmission, stores data in a dedicated cloud server for backup and safe keeping, and allows password protection or biometric protection to login to the App.
Does Apple health have a medication tracker?
Apple now offers a built-in tool to manage medications directly in Apple Health. Some of the features include a built-in pill tracker, with drug interaction warnings, and it is easy to use. However there are many things that are lacking if you are looking to manage complex chronic diseases or need a more comprehensive meds tracker to manage healthy habits. Another issue is that it is only for Apple and iOS and so if you have multiple devices, such as an Android tablet or want to access your information from a browser it is not possible to do so, like it is with the CareClinic App.
How to get started with a Medication Tracker
CareClinic is an award-winning pill reminder app that has been clinically studied to see if it can help improve patient outcomes. CareClinic provides an invaluable service for patients and wellness professionals that want to set their patients up for success.
A medication tracker needs to now have more than simple medication tracking for it to be considered a useful user-friendly app. CareClinic App is a safe, secure and privacy-focused way to manage your medication and overall health. With features like end-to-end encryption, a built-in pill tracker and drug interaction warnings, it is easy to use and comprehensive.
You may download CareClinic from Google’s Play Store for Android users or the Apple App Store for iOS users or tap the banner below which will take you to the right store automatically. The App is free to download and try!